Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Understanding what customers want to drive sales

Retailing strategies are underpinned by understanding what consumers want in order to stimulate demand and deliver customer satisfaction. Central to this is identifying what influences shoppers to choose one particular product over another to help refine marketing and promotional activity and, ultimately, improve sales.

 Part of EBLEX’s role is to help stimulate demand and deliver customer satisfaction, and the findings of a new report commissioned by us are aimed at achieving just that. The Shopping Decision Process for Meat has shown that nearly a third (31%) of meat sales are driven by appearance of the product. Price accounted for 23 per cent of purchase decisions, followed by the type of cut (11 per cent).

And the figures for decisions on purchases of cuts make for interesting reading. Beef mince is most frequently purchased, with 62 per cent of shoppers buying it once a week or more, with appearance (29%) and price (22%) the key purchase factors. The report also found that appearance (46%) was the key factor in the purchase of beef roasts, while appearance (34%) and price (22%) were again the main drivers behind purchases of beef steak.

Similarly, appearance (21%), cut (21%) and price (20%) featured as the main drivers in purchases of lamb roast. Figures for lamb chop purchases revealed that 58% of shoppers buy them weekly or more often.

 What does this tell us? Only when we know what influences consumers can we effectively improve delivery of meat offering and how we sell it. The report provides a valuable overview of purchasing behaviour in supermarkets and what prompts shoppers to choose one particular meat cut in preference to another.

The EBLEX trade marketing team has been taking this out on the road and discussing with retailers and had a positive response. It is a seen a useful resource with detailed insight to help them shape their red meat offering in store.

We hope that by working together and providing resources like these, we can continue to drive growth in the red meat sector.


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

‘Horsegate’ – moving forwards

Inevitably, ‘horsegate’ has dominated the headlines over the last week following the discovery of 29 per cent horse meat in value beef burgers sold by Tesco.

From the social media ‘pun fest’ to national newspaper front pages and urgent questions being asked in the House of Commons, the issue can’t have escaped anyone’s attention.

As the dust begins to settle, we can start to look at the ramifications and what can be done to prevent it happening again. Firstly, we need to see the outcome of the investigation into what happened and how it happened. Accidental one-off, poor practices or fraud? Once we know that, we can see if anything can be done to stop it happening again. Undoubtedly, clearer labelling on meat products to aid consumer choice and highlight greater transparency is needed to safeguard long-term consumer confidence in beef and lamb products.

One of the main disappointments lies in the fact that farmers adhere to strict guidelines on production, only to be potentially let down further up the supply chain. Amid this frustration, the NFU has rightly suggested that that retailers need to re-examine sourcing and labelling policies in the wake of the affair.

Only by implementing clearer, simpler labelling will consumers be able to identify provenance and exactly what’s in the product they are buying, with all ingredients clearly labelled. But this should not apply exclusively to the quality end of the market. In the current economic climate a significant proportion of consumers look to the lower value meat products. While it is accepted that these products are unlikely to contain as high a proportion of beef, lamb or pork than the more expensive ones, the same labelling principles should apply – the contents still need to be clearly labelled on the packet to ensure consumers are fully aware of what they are buying.

Assurance marks on packs, like the Red Tractor logo or our own Quality Standard Mark (QSM) for beef or lamb, give a level of reassurance on where a product is from and that it has been produced to clearly defined standards. While QSM is independently audited and robust, this incident has prompted us to look at launching an additional failsafe with a pilot random DNA testing programme to underpin the QSM. This isn’t being done because we expect to find other meats in QSM products or believe there is a risk, but it will act as another check and reassure consumers.

So, we await with interest the outcome of the investigation into how horsemeat found its way into value beef burgers. Only then can we look at how best to move forward to ensure there is no lasting damage to the sector.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The proactive approach to tackling our carbon footprint

The carbon footprint of agriculture in general remains high on the political agenda. Livestock in particular is widely cited as a significant contributor to agriculture’s overall GHG emissions. While the exact level of this may be up for some debate depending on which report you read (the much quoted 1996 FAO report Livestock’s Long Shadow suggested 18% of all emissions come from livestock but this has now been discredited), there is no doubt we must work hard to reduce our environmental impact and meet tough Government-set emissions targets.

The challenge is looking into how best individual farmers can make changes on their own farm that will have an impact – and how to encourage them to do so.

To this end, EBLEX and The E-CO2 Project have developed the online Sheep Carbon Footprint Tool to see where the most effective gains can be made in cutting the environmental impact of a sheep enterprise. It allows a sheep farmer to enter values relevant to their business, including fertiliser use, feed per lamb and daily liveweight gain to see where their carbon footprint stands. The values can be manipulated to see, for instance, how a footprint would be affected if they managed to get a greater daily liveweight gain or reduced the use of fertiliser inputs. They can test things in theory before putting them into practice.

The UK Climate Change Act 2008 requires a reduction in agricultures GHGs of 11% by 2020 from 1990 levels.  Research by EBLEX and The E-CO2 Project  published last year revealed the sheep production sector in the UK has been steadily reducing its carbon footprint over the last few decades. In the decade to 2010, the sheep industry in England has delivered a credible reduction of 9.3% in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) through greater output per ewe and reduced reliance on artificial fertiliser. Our Testing the Water and Down to Earth roadmap chapters have also confirmed that the livestock farmers who are producing food with the lowest carbon cost per unit are generally those who are making the best gross margins. Making changes, therefore, to reduce carbon footprint can also lead to better returns.

We hope the tool will be a useful one and that producers will have a look to see “what if?”  Work on a beef cattle equivalent is already underway.

It is vital that the industry takes the issue of reducing emissions seriously. If we do not improve performance and are not seen to be introducing measures to tackle the issue, it is inviting additional regulation as has already happened in other countries.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

2013 – Opportunities and challenges

Working with the industry for a sustainable and efficient beef and lamb sector has long been our mantra and continues to be so as we start 2013.

This year will again present opportunities and challenges for the sector. A joined up approach among industry stakeholders will no doubt go a long way to making the most of these opportunities and meeting the challenges we face.

Bearing this in mind, Secretary of State Owen Paterson’s recent speech at the Oxford Conference made for encouraging reading, not least his recognition of farming’s contribution to the economy and benefits to the landscape.

The red meat sector’s contribution to the English economy is something we examined and early last year with the ‘The real value of English red meat Economic analysis’. It concluded that it is estimated that the net economic contribution of the English red meat industry is £1.67 billion. In his speech, Mr Paterson underlined the wider economic significance of farming to the UK economy – supporting industries that add nearly £90 billion to the UK economy. Positive messages indeed.

Beyond the economic headlines, it was also encouraging to hear his endorsement of farming in enhancing some of our most valuable habitats to managing the landscape. Again, this is an area that EBLEX has looked into with our Landscapes without Livestock report, highlighting the crucial role livestock plays in maintaining the English countryside. It draws attention to the potential impact on some of England’s most cherished landscapes if beef cattle herds and sheep flocks declined or disappeared as a result of the industry becoming unsustainable.

The opening of new export markets, in particular Russia, for beef and lamb exports were also mentioned, as was his visit to Hong Kong with EBLEX to promote British beef.

While these positives stood out for the beef and lamb sector in Mr Paterson’s speech, his acknowledgement of the threats of Bovine TB and Schmallenberg highlighted just two of the challenges facing the industry as we move forwards in 2013. EBLEX will continue to monitor developments on these and other issues and work with the industry to help tackle them.